Making your dog treats at home often comes with the satisfaction of knowing exactly what goes into your dog’s food and how it affects them.
However, with all the pros of making your dog treats at home, the unfortunate truth is that many times they usually don’t last as long as over-the-counter treats. This is mainly due to the lack of preservatives, which can prove to be a great thing for your dog’s health but not so great for the longevity of your homemade dog treats.
While your pup may just finish off the delicious treats you made before storage is even an issue you may find yourself having to store some treats for future use and this is how you should do it!
Table of Contents
Why Should You Store Your Dog’s Treats?
This may be obvious but let’s start with some of the reasons why you should store your dog’s treats.
1. Mold and bacteria
Obviously, you want your treats to last as long as possible, and storing them in the correct way will ensure they have great longevity. Luckily, due to the highly acidic nature of their stomachs, our canine companions are a bit more resilient when it comes to eating spoiled foods but this is no reason to possibly put them in harm’s way by not properly storing their food.
Bugs like gnats and roaches might enjoy your homemade dog treats just as much as your pup does so make sure to store them properly to keep these critters out
If you have a greedy pup that can reach the counters, storing your treats may help prevent him or her from being able to get to them when you don’t want them to
How Long Do Most Treats Last?
There is no hard and fast rule or specific answer to this question as it depends on many factors, let’s take a look at some of them.
Hard, crunchy, dehydrated homemade dog treats will last a lot longer when stored properly than soft chewy ones. Some dehydrated treats can actually last for months if stored properly!
If you live somewhere that is extremely humid (like near the ocean or a large body of water) the treats will soak in moisture from the air making them not as long-lasting as those that are made in very dry climates. In some locations you may even have to take into account the season for example: is it more humid in the summer where you live or do you have the air conditioner running 24/7 (which will help with shelf-life)?
Using mold inhibitors and natural preservatives in your treats like citric acid or vitamin E may help them last longer than those that do not contain natural preservatives
There are some ingredients that have a longer shelf life than others. For example, if you are making treats with ingredients that already have a ton of moisture like mashed vegetables and one made with peanut butter, the one made with peanut butter will be more shelf-stable and will most likely last longer
Also, the shelf-life of your homemade dog treats will decrease if you use all fresh, natural, or organic ingredients since there are no preservatives present, which is a good thing!
Of course, how you store your treats will have a tremendous impact on how long your treats last. Treats stored in an airtight container in the freezer will undoubtedly last a lot longer than ones stored on a shelf at room temperature
Best Practices When Storing Dog Treats
Ultimately, the best way to store treats so they last the longest is in a vacuum-sealed container in the freezer this will usually yield the longest shelf life of most treats. Always make sure your vacuum-sealed container is freezer safe before using and according to the FDA foods frozen this way can last for years (although it’s not advisable to hold on to the treats for this long)!
Where should you store your homemade dog treats?
Most pet parents making homemade dog treats at home have three storage locations to choose from
Freezing your dog treats greatly mitigates the negative impact that bacteria and mold can have on your treats. Freezing the treats is a great option if you want to extend the shelf-life for an extremely long time (weeks to months) since according to the US Food and Drug Administration, freezing at 0°F keeps food safe indefinitely because these temps inactivate any microbes that may be present in food. Once thawed, however, these microbes can again become active.
Keep in mind that the longer food is in the freezer the more you run the risk of the quality of the food changing, meaning it may get freezer burn and won’t taste as good to your pup.
Once you’re ready to take your treats out of the freezer simply allow them to defrost and then feed them to your pup, the treats usually taste better defrosted. Defrosting homemade dog treats is simple! Just put them in a container with the lid off (so no moisture is trapped) and allow them to reach room temperature and let your pups enjoy.
Most homemade dog treats stored in the fridge can last for 7-10 days without any detrimental effects. Unlike freezing refrigerating the treats will not inactivate bacteria and mold so it is still able to grow on the treats
3. Room Temp
Keeping treats at room temperature tucked away on a shelf will have the least desirable effect on shelf-life as these treats will not last long at all depending on what is in them. In most cases, these treats should be eaten in about 1-2 days
What should you store your homemade dog treats in?
Here are three great options for storing homemade dog treats
Vacuum sealing your homemade dog treats is by far the best way to substantially increase their shelf life. And if placed in the freezer they can last for up to 1 year (although you probably won’t want to do this for taste reasons). The downside to using vacuum-sealed containers and bags is that you will have to purchase the equipment needed to seal the food and there sometimes is a slight learning curve. Here is a great list that details how long most foods should last in a vacuum-sealed container or bag.
Options for vacuum-sealed containers include:
- Vacuum-sealed bags: These come in various sizes and are usually clear for easy viewing
- Vacuum-sealed containers: These are special containers that have a vacuum seal on the lid
2. Airtight containers
Regardless of where you decide to store your homemade dog treats (fridge, freezer, or shelf) putting them in an airtight container should help extend their shelf life tremendously. But keep in mind that, placing your treats in an airtight container does not stop bacterial growth since there is still air inside of the container
Options for airtight containers include:
- Food Storage Container: These are made for refrigeration or freezing foods
- Mason Jars: Mason jars are a great choice to use as airtight containers as they are easy to find, inexpensive, and usually stackable
- Resealable airtight bags: These are usually not as shelf-stable as using a container or mason jar but these bags will do the trick
What is the difference between air-tight and vacuum? Air-tight containers do not allow air to pass in or out whereas a vacuum-sealed container has no air inside of them
3. Resealable Storage Bags
Resealable freezer bags like Ziploc are good for shorter-term usage as they aren’t usually air-tight and allow for freezer burn easier. If you are storing the treats in the refrigerator they should usually last for 3-5 days stored in a resealable freezer bag
|Vacuum-Sealed||1 Year||14 Days||7 Days|
|Air-Tight Container||6 Months||7 Days||5 Days|
|Resealable Storage Bags||1-2 Months||5 Days||1-2 Days|
Steps For Storing Your Homemade Dog Treats
1. Choose your container wisely
Glass is the container of choice for many since it usually helps to preserve the quality and flavor of the treats much better than plastic or metal
2. Decide on your storage length
Knowing how long you need to store the treats is key to determining how you will store them. If you plan to use them within the next couple of days popping them in the refrigerator is going to be better than storing them in a vacuum-sealed container
3. Clean & Sanitize
Clean and sanatize your storage container, again we would advise you to use glass when possible as sometimes plastics can leach unwanted chemicals into your dog’s treats and well-used plastic containers can be pretty difficult to fully sanitize
4. Store your treats
Once you’ve done all of the above steps you are ready to store your treats for optimal preservation. You can place cheesecloth or some other moisture-wicking material in the container to help get rid of moisture
Ingredients that must be refrigerated or frozen
While this is not an exhaustive list, if you make dog treats with any of the following it is best to store them in the refrigerator or freezer rather than on the shelf
- Oils & Fats: These can oxidize fairly quickly and go rancid
- Butter: If you use butter in your treats they should be refrigerated
- Diary-based ingredients: If you use any type of dairy-based ingredient these treats would do well in the fridge
- Vegetables: Using fresh veggies is a great option for treats but they should definitely be stored in the fridge
- Meats & Fish: Unless dehydrated these treats should be stored in the fridge
Eggs: Storing these treats in the fridge is crucial
- Pureed Fruits: Such as treats made with baby food
How Do I Know If My Treats Are Going Bad?
Always feel and look at your dog’s treats prior to feeding to determine if they are still in edible condition, some signs that your treats have gone bad are
- Changes in color
- Seeing mold spores
- A Difference in smell – smells rancid or rotten
- A change in texture – If the texture is off for example a dried, dehydrated treat now being super soggy
FAQs About Storing Homemade Dog Treats
What if I used all shelf-stable ingredients that have preservatives in them like peanut butter? Even if you are using ingredients to make your treats that have preservatives in them all bets are off once you begin mixing various ingredients together so it is best to store them safely in the fridge.
How can I prevent freezer burn on my treats? Your treats may get freezer burn due to exposure to air which can be mitigated by using an air-tight container. You can also wrap your treats in freezer paper prior to placing them in the freezer
Doesn’t baking kill bacteria and mold why do I still have to store them? Yes, the baking process kills some bacteria and mold (unless they are heat-resistant) but they can easily return after baking
Key Points To Remember
1. The best way to store your treats for the longest shelf-life possible is in a vacuum-sealed container in the freezer
2. Use proper handling techniques when making your treats to help decrease the number of bacteria and mold transferred
3. Dry, crunchy, dehydrated treats last the longest
4. Moisture control and smart storage practices make the biggest impact on how long your dog treats last
Want more info? Here is a great booklet about food safety and storage